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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Child Safety in Cars: Russia Lags Behind

On many occasions I have tried to ask the Central Moscow GAI office to show me statistics about the number of children injured in car accidents. I've never succeeded because I've been told such statistics do not exist. If they did exist, I fear the data would be shocking: Unfortunately, many Russian drivers are not especially careful when they have children in their car.

The rules about driving with children reflect this. It is forbidden to have a child younger than 11 sitting in the front seat next to the driver, but there are no rules requiring the use of a special car seat for babies and children, as is common in the West.

Children's car seats are available now in Russia and can be bought at car stores, toy stores and boutiques for children's clothing -- but most of them are foreign-made and cost between $100 and $300. This price is beyond the reach of ordinary drivers on an ordinary salary, so car seats remain an accessory and not a necessity.

It also doesn't help that children's car seats are strapped in with a seat belt, but many Russians don't ever use their seat belts or even remove them from their car. In general, knowledge about children's car seats and how they can save lives in an accident is very minimal in Russia.

Ten years ago, when my own daughter was still tiny, I bought a Russian car seat for her. It was cheap and not nearly as beautiful as the foreign ones you can buy now, but at least it kept her safe. Unfortunately, I think the factory where these seats were made must have closed down because it has been years since I've seen one for sale.

Beside lacking car seats, many Russian drivers seem to ignore basic safety concerns when their children are in the car. I can't say how many times I have seen a mother with her young infant just a few months old sitting in the front seat while the driver is careening down the road at about 120 kilometers an hour.

Even worse, sometimes you will see slightly older children standing on their mother's lap with their hands or even their face sticking out the car window. When the roads are as dangerous as they are in Russia, this is asking for trouble.

There are also no official signs to denote that a vehicle is carrying children, except for a sign used on buses. It is a black drawing of two children inside a white triangle, framed with a red line. You may see the same sign near kindergartens and schools. In buses it should be affixed on the front and rear windows.